Friday, September 11, 2009

Vicar of Wakefield and The Regeneration Trilogy

No contrast could be greater than that between these books. On the one hand, Oliver Goldsmith's pleasant, optimistic tale of virtue overcoming misfortune. On the other, Pat Barker's brutal but thoughtful epic of how a society at war becomes a culture of war.

The Vicar of Wakefield tells the story of a family fallen into misfortune through the fault of others and how, by keeping his honesty and good humor intact, the Vicar pulls through in the end. It is both a mild sermon on morality and a gentle satire on the literary cliches of Fielding and Richardson. Full review here.

I reported on Regeneration earlier, and have since finished the other two volumes in this trilogy. The three novels comprise a chronicle of the psychological and social impact of the First World War. The Regeneration Trilogy belongs on the shelf of great war novels alongside All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, and Catch-22. Here are my full reviews of each volume: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road.